Feb 7, 2019

The slow decay of sneaker culture

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

StockX is an online sneaker marketplace that mimics the stock market, allowing sneaker-heads to track specific items and decide when to buy, sell or hold. It also authenticates every purchase, eliminating the scammers who plague other re-sellers like eBay.

What's happening: StockX has attracted people who have no interest in shoes — just the gains they can make from flipping them. The result is a "tectonic shift" in the makeup of the sneaker consumer.

By the numbers: Since being founded in 2015, StockX has achieved monumental success. More than $2 million worth of gear is now bought and sold on the platform daily, and in September, the company raised a cool $44 million.

  • But, but, but: "Like the invention of dynamite, something created with pure intentions has had ramifications that its creator never intended," writes Casey Taylor for Deadspin.

"No longer are lineups for individual releases comprised solely or mostly of people who love the product ... Instead, people have no knowledge of what they're buying, save for the expected profits on their investment," writes Taylor.

"You got these kids now, they beg their parents, 'aw, mom, please buy me a pair of those,' and when their parents hesitate, they're showing them, like, look I can make $1000 on these. Now all of a sudden their parents are hooked. They camp out sometimes for their kids."
— Sean Williams, co-founder of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder and industry veteran

Between the lines: To make matters more dystopian, the sneaker marketplace is also dealing with the same "botting" issue that the ticket marketplace has dealt with for years.

  • People use automated bots to comb the internet and purchase the most sought-after shoes faster than humanly possible. Then they flip them back to the people who actually want to wear them — at an inflated price, of course.
  • Since these bots are expensive, only people with means can afford to use them. As a result, the rich are getting richer and the less fortunate are being left behind.

The big picture: Regardless of where the blame lies — whether it's with StockX, sneaker flippers or capitalism, itself — the outcome is the same: "A culture lives and dies with the passion it inspires in its participants, and the passion is draining from the most devoted," writes Taylor.

The other side: Williams has a more positive view of the situation:

"Why am I gonna be mad at a kid for making money off this? ... Sneakers are the new brick of cocaine or pound of weed, and now instead of having to flip some weed and maybe get locked up for it, they can go get a couple pairs of Jordans and be set for a while after the flip."

The bottom line: Courtesy of our very own sneaker-head, Mike Sykes: StockX is both a gift and a curse. It's a failsafe when you lose out on a drop and an avenue to make money, but it's also turned culture into commerce.

Go deeper: Silicon Valley's ubiquitous sneaker startup gets ready for summer

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Japan's economy minister outlined plans on Monday to end the nationwide state of emergency as the number of new novel coronavirus cases continues to decline to less than 50 a day, per Bloomberg. Japan has reported 16,550 cases and 820 deaths.

By the numbers: Over 5.4 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.1 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 13.7 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,800 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 5,401,701 — Total deaths: 345,060 — Total recoveries — 2,149,407Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 1,643,238 — Total deaths: 97,720 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

President Trump doubled down on his push to reopen schools, tweeting late Sunday: "Schools in our country should be opened ASAP."

Zoom in: Trump pushed back on NIAD Director Anthony Fauci cautioning against the move earlier this month, calling his concerns "not an acceptable answer."